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20 July 2017
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DESIGNING A MULTI-GENERATIONAL WORKFORCE

Joe Huddleston
Joe Huddleston is a senior project designer at Overbury

10 July 2017 | Joe Huddleston


The British workforce is getting older, which means that office design must now consider a new set of workplace requirements. 


The challenge for designers is to create inclusive environments that address the needs of these highly skilled older folk while still providing comfortable environments for all users, so the entire workforce is engaged, happy and productive.


For example, as we age, we feel the cold more because of decreased circulation, our hearing and eyesight weakens and our bones lose density. Perhaps there should be guidelines on temperature, lighting, acoustics and furniture?


This sentiment echoes research, which found that employees want greater control of their office environment, such as lighting and temperature controls. There is increased demand for technologies that allow these factors to be controlled at desk level. While there’s a need for the older workforce to have this flexibility, others in the office would also benefit.


I feel that the ‘generational talk’ needs decoding as our language alone can create barriers. We’re well versed in the stereotypes of millennials, but what about people who don’t neatly fall into those categories – or don’t subscribe to the behaviours? They’re described as disloyal, flighty, entitled, enthusiastic, ‘digital natives’ and creative – this can’t all be true of all employees under 30.


When designing and building offices where people actually want to work, it is less about designers telling bosses what they should have and more about tailoring the space to the staff needs. I’ve recently found that clients are far more aware of office design and know what they like, and what they don’t.


Workplace surveys and time use studies can help. And profile work styles: regardless of age, a person at their desk four days a week might be reluctant to be hot-desking, while a mobile person may simply need a drop-in area or touchdown desk in the office. 


Joe Huddleston is a senior project designer at Overbury